June 10, 1997 in City

Oregon To Vote Again On Assisted Suicide State Legislature Asks Voters To Reconsider Groundbreaking Law They Approved In 1994

Brad Cain Associated Press

The Oregon Senate on Monday sent Oregon’s first-in-the-nation assisted suicide law back to voters.

The Senate approved the measure 20-10 after backers said new information warranted asking Oregon voters to revisit the issue in November.

With passage earlier by the House, the Senate vote sends the measure straight to the ballot.

Opponents of the referral, however, called it a slap in the face to voters who in 1994 approved the law allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients who request it.

The critics pushed unsuccessfully to have the Senate pass a substitute version to make technical revisions in the assisted suicide law but otherwise preserve it. However, that version was rejected 19-11.

The assisted suicide law has been blocked from taking effect by various legal challenges.

During Monday’s debate, senators who backed the referral said new information has come to light since the 1994 campaign on Measure 16.

They said that in the Netherlands, where euthanasia is practiced, about 25 percent of patients who take pills to end their lives endure lingering deaths, sometimes lasting several days.

Besides, they said, medical technology has evolved to the point where doctors can effectively treat intractable pain. There’s no reason for Oregon to resort to physician-assisted suicide, they said.

But senators who support the assisted suicide law said the Legislature has no business trying to overturn a voter-approved law, especially one that’s never been given a chance to be implemented because of legal challenges.

In addition to assisted suicide, the Legislature also is considering asking Oregon voters in November to revise the term limits law they approved in 1992.

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